Qingtan (Pure Discussions)

Emei History 峨眉


The origins of Emei’s Daoist History is shrouded by its more modern Buddhist history but, as masters before me have recounted there are some legends we hold to be truths. During the Jin Dynasty (240-420 AD), under the famous Sima Clan’s Rule of Wei, and before the Buddhist records which are quite sparse, but prior to Buddhism coming to China, Daoism was well established in Sichuan and first rooted itself on Emei Shan (High Eyebrow Mountain). This place was called the Seventh Heavenly Abode and came into being towards the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (206BC –24 AD, under the Liu Clan. As one can infer, Daoism was hundreds of years earlier and established in Emei much earlier than Buddhism was.

During the Western Jin Dynasty(265-316 AD), Qiang Ming the Daoist priest built Qianming Temple at the base of Zhongfeng Peak.  A dispute erupted and the monks were segregating into different clans. The legend says Buddhist Ming Guo came to the temple and held an intervention exposing a Daoist who was using evil Dao Magic to deceive people. As a result of his efforts Ming Guo was made head abbot and changed QianMing into ZhongFeng Monastery.

Many of the Daoist temples were converted to ZhongFeng Monasteries on Mt. Emei which still retaining their original Daoist names.  Some examples of this can be seen in: Leishen Temple (Thunder God), Xianfeng, Yuxian Temple (Meeting Immortal Temple).   Hui Chi came to Sichuan in 399 AD due to what he had read in “The Biography of Eminent Monks” by Hui Jiao.  Hui Chi went to Emei Shan and founded Puxian Monastery, the first physically on the Mountain, by Buddhists. The Wannian Temple grew from this original.

Between 502 and 549 AD Bao Zhang  came to Emei. He was said to have lived 1,072 years and died in 657. They deified him as the “Thousand Year Old Monk”.  Bao came to Sichuan during the Liang State (502-557AD) and lived in Daci Monastery in Chengdu before going up Mt. Emei to build his home.  Here he built Lingyuan Monastery which lasted through the Tang, Song and Yuan and Ming Dynasties becoming the largest in Sichuan.  It was so enormous that one needed horses  to travel from one hall to the next.

Bao Zhang traveled from Lingyuan to Baoyan Monastery in Zhejiang.  Here he befriended Lang Chan, the abbot.  They corresponded by letters each day in the monastery and a white dog delivered them. A Blue Monkey, it is said washed their bowls whenever the two monks ate together.  In Hongchun Monastery, on Mt. Emei is a quote that says “The white dog fetches letters; the blue monkey washes bowls”.

In the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-618 and 618-907 AD) Daoism and Buddhism competed for favor of the government.  Learning from one another they coexisted then despite the need for separate spaces with which to cultivate. During this time Master Zhi Kai, founder of Buddhist Taintai Pai arrived at Mt. Emei and lived in Zhongfeng Monastery. During this time Sun Simiao, the Medical Herb King of Daoism, lived in a stone cavern in Niuxin Monastery and collected plants and made bills of immortality.  Each living at the foot of different peaks would hike up their respective peaks every fourth day and greet one another from a distance.  Later on these peaks came to be known at Echoing Peaks.

There was a large boulder in the forest before Zhongfeng Monastery under which was an ever-flowing spring. It was believed those that drank from it would be cured of ailments.  One day Sifu Zhi Kai fell ill while returning from Yuquan Cavern.  Zhi Kai walked out of the monastery and saw the water gushing out and thought of its powers to heal. At that moment a dragon’s daughter, disguised as a village girl appeared to him.  He and her would meet the next day in front of Yuquan Cavern.  When he arrived the next day he saw his cane and alms bowl in the cavern’s stream. The bowl was full of water which tasted different from the water of Yuquan stream that flowed from the cavern.  It is to this day that Yuquan stream is connected to the spring waters on Mt. Emei.  In 1626 a monk on Mt. Emei inscribed on a rock near the stream this. “Supernatural Water Flows to Chu Region”, which is Hunan and Hubei.

Xuan Zhang, a monk received enlightenment at YueXian Cavern (moon celestial being cavern), close to Juilao Cavern.  This was when Daoist ascetics lived in caves.  The names of the Nine Immortals and the Moon Celestial Beings derive their names from these stories and are related to the origin of Daoism.

During the Xizong Period of the Tang Dynasty (874-888), Hui Tong, a Hui Arab Chinese came to Emei. This was a time of the 845 Anti-Buddhist Edict in which the Emperor attempted to cleanse the nation of all non Chinese beliefs, leaving Daoism relatively alone.  He resided in Puxian Monastery and later became an abbot.  Hui Tong reestablished Puxian Monastery and refurbish and expand Zhongfeng.  Later he had people build Qingyin Pavillion.  Later dynasties, fire and disasters often ravaged Emei’s many temples.  The Mountain was born in the year of fire and Hui Tong used the Five Element Names (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood) to rename each monastery.  Huayan as Guiyun Pavillion (Returning Clouds Monastery), Niuxin as Woyunsi Monastery (Crouching Clouds Monastery),  Zhongfeng as Jiyun Monastery (Gathering Clouds Monastery), Puxian as Baishui (White Water Monastery) and Huangzang as HeShui Monastery (Black Water Monastery).  Hui Tong intentionally worked out the patter of the “Three Clouds and the Black and White Uncertainty” a pattern which can be seen on Ruyi scepters or as motifs on temples. Ruyi means (as your heart desires). When Hui died his body didn’t decompose but instead gave off a fair fragrance. His body was worshipped during the Ming Dynasty in the Zudian Hall of HeShui Monastery.

Hui Xu, Tong’s little sister  came to Emei and lived in Huazang Monastery and was the first nun on the mountain. She was said to have amazing powers.  During the evenings a black tiger patrolled her halls and crows announced the sunrise.  A pool outside Huanzang had over a hundred eagles swarm in groups.  When monks chanted, frogs would sing. The frogs sounded like zithers, full of eight tone melodies. The pool was named Eight Tone Scale Pool.

Zhu Yuan zhang, the first Ming Emperor who conquered the Yuan rulers  during the Red Turban Rebellion, lived from (1328-1398) and was a peasant originally and also a buddhist monk.  Mt. Emei was granted favors during this period.  Guang Ji of Huangjue Monastery used to know Zhu before ascension to the throne.  Guang Ji was summoned to court to see Zhu but he always refused and stayed at Niuxin Monastery and as a result added to its fame.

In the Hongwu Period of the Ming Dynasty, Bao Tan arrived at Emei and stayed on Xijin Peak (Tin and Gold Peak).  He built and Iron Tile Monastery and encased the Puxian statue in Gold.  He died whilst sitting crossed legged in Tianjie Monastery.

1599 the BaiHui Temple was renamed Wannian Monastery. Guan Yi arrived during the Qing Dynasty and reconstructed Fuhu Monastery. Ken Wen, his apprenctice built the Woyun Nunnery, the Boundless Hall and the Cool Breeze Bridge.

There are 30 or more temples on the mountain built against hillsides or hidden in forests. Brogue and Fuhu are the largest intact currently.

The Creation of Emei Wushu

Sword in the Snow

Daoist Sage Jiu Tian Xuan Nu, a woman and powerful martial artist is said to have founded the style.  She loved the jian and her prowess lead to the local sword heritage of Xuan Nu Sword after the warrior goddess Xuan Nu.  Emei martial arts is supposed to have been founded by a woman because of Xuan Nu Sword as well as the rare weapon style, Hair Pin (or now Emei Piercers).  Many also say a single person could not have founded such a large system and that it’s a combined effort of the Ba and Shu cultures and the influx of travelers on the Silk Road.  There are 2500 styles in the Emei repertoire. Many movements designed for persons of smaller frame or height.  Emei schools combined the advantages of both the Buddhists and the Daoists living on the Mountain, using the dynamic qigong of Daoists and the static qigong of Buddhists.  Emei Wushu dates back to 481 BC-221 BC. (Pre Qin). The founder is officially Sifu Xuangong (name Baiyisan, title Ling Dongzi) He is the original one who imitated the ape form in Mt. Emei and creator of Ape Sword (Yuangong Jian). And Ape Long Fist and is known as the Baiyuangong (Ape Master). Emei martial arts started under Baiyu and Baimei (white eyebrow) as the representatives.

According to Wu Yue Chun Qiu “Goujian Scheme IX” by Zhaoye, Sifu Xuangong  (Ling Dongzi), live on Mt. Emei (FAR before any of the temple’s). He imitated the apes to create a set flexible in attack and defense known as Emei Long Fist and YuanYong Sword.  Xuangong always wore white and was called White Ape Master BaiYuanMan.

During the Jin Dynasty Baiyun Masters in Mt. Emei created the Emei Qizhuanggong which is now (Emei 12 pillars training)

Deyuan (1127-1279) had very white eyebrows and was dubbed “white eyebrow Daoist) or BaiMeiDao. He is the creator of White Eyebrow Boxing, quite popular in Sichuan. It features hopping, rolling and dancing with one’s hands and feet quickly like a white ape in the mountains.  He compiled a book on Emei Boxing.  It is one of the earliest records about Emei School of Martial arts.

The Creation of Emei Qigong


With its western cliffs overlooking the great Tibetan Plateau, Emei Shan is an inspiration to all that come to it. Its rain forest are home to thousands of the rarest of plants and wild animals which serve at medicines.  In 1227 AD a priest arrived from WuDang to pilgrimage to the former center of Daoism, Mt. Emei. He meditated and fasted, as spiritual masters guided his path toward wisdom and enlightenment. After he broke his fast he took the name Bai Yun or White Cloud.

Bai Yun founded a system  called Emei Qigong which merged Buddhism, Shamanism, Acupuncture, herbal medicine and Daoist Qigong with pranayama yoga. This Pai is devoted to maintaining health and curing disease and ailments whilst striving to attain enlightenment.

Bai Yun was told by the Dao to take his teaching and pass them down, lineage holder to lineage holder. Grandmaster Bai Yun chronicled the sacred knowledge in the Emei Treasured Lotus Canon, which is now in the Beijing museum.


Emei Dao –  San Bao (三 寶) Three Treasures

In the Daoist tradition life is supported by three main pillars, these three pillars or compounds are important to lead a balanced and healthy life. The translation of these are very vague and every Daoist master would give you a slightly different response. This translation here is a more classic version of the three treasures 三 宝 or San Bao: Qi, Jing and Shen. Basically they can be translated as: Qi is energy building. Jing is energy saving and Shen has a lot to do with our nervous system and awareness.

Taoist masters use the knowledge of the three treasures to indicate their own life and help others by indicating their life problems. The three treasures are the basic principle for diagnostics in traditional chinese medicine. The real interpretation of the three treasures can be understood by collecting experience through self-awareness. This does include Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Kung Fu training. Also the three treasures refer to the three pillars of Daoist virtues – Compassion, Frugality and Humility

Qi – 氣 (Vitality) [Lungs and Spleen]

 Qi, the first Treasure, is the energy that creates our vitality. Through the constant interaction of Yin and Yang change is brought into being. Qi is the activity of Yin and Yang. Movement, functioning and thought is the result of Qi. The nature of Qi is to move. In the Three Treasures system includes both Energy and Blood. It nourishes and protects us. Qi is said to be produced as a result of the functions of the Lungs and Spleen. Therefore, Qi tonics strengthen the digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions.

When Qi condenses, it becomes Jing. Fast moving Qi is considered to be Yang while slow moving Qi is Yin. In the system of the Three Treasures, blood is considered to be a part of the Qi component of our being. Blood is said to be produced from the food ingested after the Qi has been extracted through the action of the Spleen. The red blood cells are said to be nutritive and are thus associated with the Ying Qi (Yin), while the white blood cells are protective and are associated with Wei Qi (Yang). Qi tonics are generally believed to have potent immune modulating activity. Qi tonics, composed of Energy and/or Blood tonics, increase our ability to function fully and adaptively as human beings.

Jing – 井 (Essence) [Kidneys]

Jing is the second Treasure and is translated as “Regenerative Essence,” or simply as “Essence.” Jing is the refined energy of the body. It provides the foundation for all activity and is said to be the “root” of our vitality. Jing is the primal energy of life. It is closely associated with our genetic potential, and is associated with the aging process. Jing is stored energy and provides the reserves required to adapt to all the various stresses encountered in life. Since Jing is concentrated energy, it manifests materially. Jing also is said to control a number of primary human functions: the reproductive organs and their various substances and functions; the power and clarity of the mind; and the integrity of one’s physical structure. Jing, which is a blend of Yin and Yang energy, is said to be stored in the “Kidney.” Jing is generally associated these days with the hormones of the reproductive and adrenal glands, and Jing is the vital essence concentrated in the sperm and ova.

It is considered extremely difficult to enhance the original Jing after conception, although it is not at all difficult to deplete and weaken it, and thus to weaken and shorten one’s life. The only way to strengthen the originalJing is through specific highly sophisticated yogic techniques such as those developed by the Daoists and by consuming certain potent tonic herbs known as Jing tonics. The purpose of taking Jing tonic herbs is to maintain healthy levels of postnatal Jing. If postnatal Jing is maintained at sufficient levels, prenatal Jing is used much more slowly and the aging process is slowed down.

When Jing is strong, vitality and youthfulness remain. Strong Jing energy in the Kidneys, so the Chinese say, will lead to a long and vigorous life, while a loss of Jing will result in physical and mental degeneration and a shortening of one’s life. Jing is essential to life and when it runs low our life force is severely diminished and thus we lose all power to adapt. The quantity of Essence determines both our life span and the ultimate vitality of our life.Jing is burned up in the body by life itself, but most especially by chronic and acute stress and excessive behavior, including overwork, excessive emotionalism, substance abuse, chronic pain or illness, and marital excess (especially in men). Excessive menstrual patterns, pregnancy and childbirth can result in a dramatic drain on the Jing of a woman, especially in middle-aged women. When Jing is depleted below a level required to survive, we die. Eventually everyone runs out of Jing and thus everyone dies (at least physically).

Shen – 神 (Spirit) [Heart, Eyes]

Shen is the third Treasure. Shen is the Holy Spirit which directs Qi. It may also be translated as our “higher consciousness.” This is ultimately the most important of the Three Treasures because it reflects our higher nature as human beings. Chinese masters say that Shen is the all-embracing love that resides in our “Heart,” a primary organ system. Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of energetics in the universe. Shen is not considered to be an emotion, or even a state of mind. It presides over the emotions and manifests as all-encompassing compassion, and non-discriminating, non-judgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance. It manifests as our wisdom and our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low, and so on. Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one, even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion.

Our true Spirit, which the Chinese call Shen, is the spark of divinity that resides within the heart of every human being and manifests as love, kindness, compassion, generosity, giving, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, tenderness and the appreciation of beauty. It is the Spirit of a human being as the divine messenger, the channel of God’s will and love. Shen is the purpose of all spiritual paths. It is the Buddha’s desire to end suffering and it is Christ’s love and compassion… Shen manifests only when the heart is open. Once the heart is open, Shen manifests as light that illuminates the path of a man or woman in life’s journey toward the spiritual goal and along the spiritual path

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